Property Maintenance: Cracking Down on Dog Poop with DNA Testing
The dog poop is hitting the fan at some apartment communities across the country. Residents that don’t pick up after their pets are getting hit with fines – some of them steep – thanks to DNA testing that is leaving permanent marks on many dogs’ records.
Properties from Dallas to New Hampshire are having success nabbing violators with a program that uses pet DNA to identify the culprit of leaving dog poop on the grounds. Feces is sent to a lab in Knoxville, Tenn., for testing and matched with owner records obtained by the property. Violators are usually fined and encouraged to clean up after their pet in the future.
Residents are getting the message and properties are a little less messy.
Kathy Carlton, Director of Government affairs for the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas, said that at least one area property management company is using DNA testing to clean up a couple of its properties that had recurring problems with pet waste. Residents at one Dallas mid-rise complained that pets were soiling hallways because owners weren’t taking them to designated pet areas.
Soon after the program began, so did the clean up. “[The property management team] found out that they only had to confront just a couple of people,” Carlton said. “Word spread quickly that they had to pay a high fine. It cured itself in a couple of weeks.”
Property Maintenance Teams Embrace Dog DNA Testing
PooPrints, a division of BioPet Vet Labs, markets a DNA pet waste management and control program to apartments, condominiums, and homeowners associations in the U.S. The company, formed in 2009, has about two dozen distributors in the U.S. and Canada.
For about $30, both sides of the dog’s cheek is swabbed and sent to PooPrints to keep on file in the DNA World Pet Registry, a large data base that includes pet medical and health information. Properties are provided collection kits to be used for sending feces samples to the company’s laboratory to trace the owner of the pet that left a mess on the property.
PooPrints Chief Executive Officer and Texas distributor Cedric J. Moses says apartment property maintenance and management teams are expressing interest in the program, and that the pet registry serves a dual purpose for monitoring pet activity on the property.
“More and more property managers want to know about the dogs they have on their property,” he said. “Having a dog DNA on file through our system also allows property managers and other agencies a universal system that can check to ensure all pets in a community have had all the required shots and medical treatment through our online medical records tracking system.”
Residents Who Don’t Pick up Dog Poop Pick up a Fine
Twin Ponds property manager Debbie Logan said that her property began DNA testing in May 2010 as a last resort to resolving a persistent problem of residents not picking up after their dogs. She said at one point the property management team encouraged residents to report offenders by submitting videos.
The Nashua, N.H., property began requiring pet owners to test animals on site, while non-pet owners had to sign a document stating they didn’t have pets. Owners had to pay a one-time fee of $50 and, to minimize the risk of dog bites, swab the animal’s cheeks.
Violators are fined $100 for the first two offenses and an additional $100 for each thereafter. While there have been repeat offenders (one has run up a $600 tab), the property is much cleaner. Also, few resist having to test their dogs.
“It’s old hat now,” Logan said. “We don’t spend time picking up big messes. The good thing is that residents tell us (about violators).”
Parkside at Legacy in Plano, Texas, is one of several properties owned by Columbus Realty developer Robert Shaw and managed by Lincoln Property Company (LPC) that employs the program as well. In early February, turnout was good for sampling dogs large and small. Pet owners moved swiftly about, filling out a short form and swabbing each side of the pet’s cheek. The process took about five minutes.
LPC turned to the program about a year ago when residents at other Lincoln-managed properties didn’t pick up after their pets. The property management company amended its pet policy without much backlash.
“We’re in the formative stages of this, but we have not had any negatives to speak of,” said Jay Parmelee, regional vice president for LPI’s third-party property management group. “There was one outspoken person that felt that we didn’t have the right to amend our pet policy, but that’s clearly addressed in both our lease and community policies that we have the right to revise and amend from time to time. Otherwise, it’s been overwhelmingly endorsed by pet owners. They understand and recognize it.”
Resident Retention: Cracking Down on Dog Poop Boosts Occupancy
Logan attributes the program to helping transform the property into a pet-friendly destination that has boosted occupancy levels. Since DNA testing began, the animal population at the 375-unit community north of Boston has soared to about 400.
A second, larger pet area has been added to the front office, and the property routinely hosts pet-related events for residents.
“Our occupancy rates are fantastic,” said Logan, who has become a PooPrints distributor. “We now use [DNA testing] as a marketing tool.”
Best off all, she said, pet waste is one less thing that a busy property manager, or property maintenance team, has to worry about.
“We do so many things already as a property manager and we don’t have time for anything else,” she said. “The last thing you need to be dealing with is dog (feces).”
Would you consider employing a DNA testing program to crack down on residents who don’t pick up after their dogs? If nothing else, the program is sure to make your property maintenance team happier.
Images: Tim Blackwell